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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Conte hails Chelsea's 'great character' after edging past Bournemouth to set up League Cup semi-final with Arsenal

After taking the lead in the first half, the hosts required a late winner from Alvaro Morata to book their place in the final four.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hailed his team "great character" after defeating Bournemouth on Wednesday night to set up a League Cup semi-final showdown with rivals Arsenal.

Chelsea, fielding a strong side while dropping key players Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata to the bench, started brightly and opened the scoring through Brazilian winger Willian after 13 minutes.

The Premier League champions were in cruise control by half-time but in the second period it was Bournemouth who produced the more menacing football.

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Eddie Howe's side earned a deserved equaliser when Dan Gosling scored in the 90th minute as the tie headed towards extra-time. However, straight from kick-off Hazard set up Morata - both of whom had come off the bench - to guide Chelsea into the last-four.

"This is a remarkable achievement for us," said Conte, who was speaking before the draw. "We want to continue, to try to reach Wembley to play the final.

"It was important, because to go and to play 30 minutes more, I think it was a bit dangerous.

"We had a great reaction. It's not simple to concede a goal in the last minute of the game. When you have this type of reaction, it means you have players with great character, great personality, great heart."

Morata was booked following his goal and is now suspended for Saturday's trip to Everton, when Conte is likely to deploy Hazard as a 'false nine' once again after another underwhelming display by Michy Batshuayi.

It was against Everton in the fourth round of the League Cup that Ethan Ampadu made his first Chelsea start and the 17-year-old defender was entrusted to begin against Bournemouth.

The Wales international showed his class, following an early rush of blood which saw him booked in the second minute for a foul on visiting striker Jermain Defoe.

"Ampadu played the whole game with this problem," Conte said. "He showed great maturity, great personality."

Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe felt Ampadu's punishment was appropriate, but bemoaned the cost to his side.

"My gut feeling was a yellow, but obviously we lost Jermain," Howe said.

Defoe went off with possible ankle ligament damage and midfielder Harry Arter has a calf problem which makes him doubtful for Saturday's trip to Manchester City.

"I can't credit the players enough," Howe said. "We leave positive, but we've got Man City next. It doesn't get any easier."